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How to Avoid Unforced Errors in Your Job Search

Are you secretly sabotaging your hunt for a new job?

You may be if you’re making any of the 5 mistakes I'll share with you. The following blunders are all taken from real-life job searches gone bad.

Avoid them and get hired faster!

Unforced Error #1: Misspellings and Grammatical Gaffes

It may sound like a broken record, but for the record, here it is again: errors in spelling and punctuation can kill your job search faster than Raid on a cockroach.

Here are two recent examples from my email in-box:

  1. A cover letter with the year wrong (employers will think: Did you miss that day in first grade when they taught dates?)
  2. A resume with the heading, "Professional Skills" misspelled as, "Professional Shills" (thus creating an unintentionally hilarious statement that torpedoed the document).

The solution is simple.

Have not one but two trusted friends read your resumes and cover letters. Tell them to pay close attention to your name, phone number, address and the headings in your documents -- most mistakes happen there.

Unforced Error #2: The Answering Machine From Hell

I got an email 10 days ago from a man, distraught because he'd been looking for a management job for over a year. So I called him to give encouragement.

This was the greeting on his answering machine: "Howdy! We’re out chasing the horses around probably, but we'll be sure to call you back after we kick the mud off our shoes. Yessiree. Buh-bye!"

Would you offer a management job to the creator of that comic masterpiece? Me neither.

So, what does your voicemail say about you? Is it professional and courteous, or a rambling mess, with barking dogs and music in the background? Either way, it may be the first impression employers get when they call you.

Don't kid around.

Unforced Error #3: No Answering Machine At All

Almost as bad as a silly greeting is no answering machine at all. Because most employers will call you between 9 and 5. If you’re not home and they can't leave a message, they'll call someone else.

Solution: if you don't have an answering machine, spend the 20 bucks and get one today.

And if you use a dial-up modem to surf the Internet, call your phone company and get voicemail service that prevents callers from getting a busy signal. That way, if someone in your home is on the Internet for an hour or two, employers can still get through and leave you a message.

Unforced Error #4: An Immature Email Address

Every week, I get at least one email from someone with an address like or

Again, why kid around with your career? Get a professional-looking email handle and use it for all job search correspondence.

Unforced Error #5: Unresolved Anger

This is perhaps the most insidious form of self-sabotage, requiring the most effort to correct.

I've counseled at least two people this year who, despite a bang-up resume and stellar qualifications, keep failing at interviews.

In each case, these job hunters had been laid off under bad circumstances - they felt wronged and angry as a result. Problem: that anger came through loud and clear each time they were asked why they left their last employer. And their interviews went downhill from there.

Are you harboring feelings of ill will toward your last boss? If so, it may be causing you to interview poorly. Solutions? You could consult a career coach, pour out your feelings to a trusted friend or counselor, or even write a letter to that manager you’re mad at -- then burn the letter.

By avoiding these 5 job-hunting blunders, you can prevent the sort of "unforced errors" that prolong your search unnecessarily.

-Kevin Donlin
Copyright © 2003 by Kevin Donlin Kevin Donlin owns and operates Guaranteed Resumes. Since 1995, he has provided resumes, cover letters and online job-search assistance to clients on five continents.

Kevin has been interviewed by WCCO and WLTE radio, and KMSP TV, among others. His articles have appeared in the National Business Employment Weekly, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Twin Cities Employment Weekly and others.

As a reader of this publication, you're eligible for a special offer. Get your F-ree Job Search Kit ($25.00 value) at the Guaranteed Resumes Web site